Actions have consequences as the Greensboro City Council is learning the hard way.

Last year the City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Nancy Vaughan, declared war on the state government.  Since the city is a creature of the state and only exists because the state says it exists, this is a war the city can’t win.

This year the city asked the state to make some changes to the Human Relations Commission and the Complaint Review Committee (CRC), which reviews complaints primarily about the Greensboro Police Department.  The main changes are reasonable and are the kind of local bill that is regularly passed by the General Assembly, as long as it has the support of the local delegation. 

The City Council wants the power to appoint the members of the CRC and increase the number of members from seven to nine.  According to the state law establishing the CRC, those appointments are made by the chairman of the Human Relations Commission. 

In response to the city’s request, the state legislature didn’t say no, because that’s not how legislatures work.  The legislature simply assigned the bill making those changes to a committee, and there it sits gathering dust.

It’s likely to sit in committee for a long time – along with every other request the city makes to the state – until the City Council realizes that being at war with your governing body is not wise, and that doesn’t appear likely to happen any time soon.

It’s not just that the city chose to take the state to court over House Bill 263, which restructured the Greensboro City Council.  The city has passed several resolutions opposing the actions of the state government.

The state legislature has adjourned, but at the last City Council meeting the Council, by an 8-to-1 vote, passed a resolution opposing House Bill 318, which among other things forbade cities from accepting identification that was not issued by a government agency. 

The City Council had earlier voted to accept as official identification the ID cards issued by Faith Action. 

It’s not difficult to discern the problem with cities declaring identification issued by a nonprofit agency as official identification – where does it end?  This year the city decides Faith Action is official identification and next year it decides that the Beloved Community Center, Grassroots Productions and the Rotary Club can all provide official identification.  Then it won’t be long before Joe’s Official ID Shoppe opens on the corner and starts handing out official identification to anyone that walks through the door.

But the City Council decided to officially oppose House Bill 318, even though it had already passed the legislature and was only waiting for Gov. Pat McCrory to sign or not sign the bill and it would become law.  In North Carolina, the governor doesn’t have to sign a bill; it becomes law 30 days after passage without the governor’s signature.

McCrory didn’t just sign the bill, he came to Greensboro to sign the bill.  The implication of that action was completely lost on the Greensboro City Council, which, although it passes laws for Greensboro, believes it is itself above the laws of the state.

At the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting on Monday, Nov. 9, the council was told that because the state didn’t pass the changes the City Council had requested for the CRC, changes to the structure of the CRC could not be made, but that the staff had come up with workaround.  The chairman of the Human Relations Commission will still have the sole authority as established by state law to appoint the members of the CRC, but the City Council will be allowed to nominate members. 

City Attorney Tom Carruthers told the Public Safety Committee that in his opinion the city could also increase the number of members and change the name of the CRC despite the fact that the law making those changes had not been passed.

City Councilmember Mike Barber said he didn’t like it.  He said he had problems with the entire process, from changing the name – from the Complaint Review Committee to the Police Review Board – to the way the commission would be appointed.  He suggested the item be tabled until the next meeting, and it was.

Carruthers said that the bill the city had proposed was still in committee and could be passed during the legislature’s short session next spring.  Optimism is a fine quality, but facing reality has its merits also.  Several state senators contacted said that it was unlikely the bill about the CRC would be passed any time in the foreseeable future.

The state Senate is run by President Pro Tem of the Senate Phil Berger, whose district includes the northern portion of Greensboro and who has been ravaged by the Greensboro City Council.  One of the up and coming members of the state Senate is Trudy Wade from Greensboro, a former member of the City Council.  Vaughan and the City Council have declared war on the state but they have reserved their harshest attacks for Wade.

Human nature being what it is, most of us realize that it’s not a good idea to slap someone in the face five or 10 times and then ask them for a favor, and politically speaking that is what the City Council has done.  Except it hasn’t stopped slapping Wade in the face.

It’s always dangerous to make political predictions, because politics constantly changes, but in this case it’s a safe prediction to make that the state legislature is not going to be doing favors for Greensboro in the short session next year, nor is it likely to get much out of the legislature during the 2017 session unless there is a complete turnover in the next election and the Democrats take control of the General Assembly. 

The Greensboro City Council could calm down and stop taking actions that serve no purpose but to annoy its boss in Raleigh, but that isn’t likely to happen either. 

When the state has some money to hand out in Guilford County, you can bet that it will go to High Point, not Greensboro.